Saturday, July 1, 2017

Haunting notes in 'Song of the Plains' memoir

   VALOIS, New York - The president and founder of the National Association of Memoir Writers has just published her second memoir, Song of the Plains (She Writes Press, Berkeley, June 2017). It's an intriguing book full of self-disclosure and surprises that pop up very early.
    Linda Joy Myers has produced a book rich in detail that at times will make readers want to weep - or openly weep. At others, Myers middle name takes precedence as she talks about her life from childhood to today where she leads the vanguard of a national memoir movement that is continually growing in strength and recognition.
   The subtitle of the book, "a memoir of family, secrets and silence," is a good clue that the book has an ample share of darkness. Maybe more than ample.
    Not far into Song of the Plains this sentence jumps out: "The stories that have the most juice are those no one will tell you."
    It's at that point readers realize they will accompany the author very closely on her journey to uncover the backgrounds of those stories.
    That journey includes a dark undercurrent of abuse and molestation, but explained more than dwelled on. Myers does an excellent job of telling the story through her youthful eyes as a child, then teen, then continuing to adulthood.
   It would be unfair to say much beyond that - the tales she recounts so skillfully are best left to be said in the author's own words.
    And the words flow easily, sometimes in an aphoristic style, at other times more poetry than prose, reminiscent of the descriptive phrasing of American author James Lee Burke.
    This sentence fairly jumped off the page as it described a tense scene between Myers' grandmother and grandfather:
    "Behind the masks of smiles, the weight of the past seemed to rise up like a thick white curtain of fog."
    A few sentences later she writes:
    "The fog of history hovered around them near the colorful hollyhocks, plants that were nearly as tall as grandpa."
   Song of the Plains is not paced like a novel. It's a book that requires some quiet reflection almost every few chapters. It would seem a excellent work for any book club to take on as it it would likely provoke plenty of discussion and emotion.
    Song of the Plains is available for purchase online through Amazon and at book retailers around the San Francisco Bay area, including Book Passage.

  --- Reviewed by Michael J. Fitzgerald

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